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Hakkasan teams up with WSET to provide first dedicated sake training course

Published:  24 July, 2014

An increasing demand for sake amongst UK consumers is not being met by the trade, according to Christine Parkinson, head wine buyer at the Hakkasan restaurant group, which has recently put the sommeliers in its London branches through a new WSETdedicated sake course.

"There is no doubt that people like sake once they try it," she said. "It's an easy drink to like as the flavours are very appealing and it's lower acidity than a lot of wines. It's also very food friendly.

But she added:  "The trade needs to catch up so we have more people who are able to sell it and buy it. The market is there, its just up to the trade to exploit it."  

Hakkasan has previously provided internal sake training for its staff, but had a long standing arrangement with the WSET that they would be the first company to undergo the new dedicated sake course and be certified to run it themselves.  

"Now every one of our London restaurants has at least one sommelier that has passed the course. They know how to help people and advise them as to which sake to choose and  I think we can say with certainly that sake training has contributed to sake growth. And I think we won't see the full impact of the course until a bit later in year."  

In the last three years, sake sales at Hakkasan have grown by around 50%, and are continuing to grow steadily, now outstripping rose wine.    

Hakkasan has around 25 sakes on its list, with the entry price for a 720ml bottle of £40. However, the sake is also offered by the carafe -  tokkuri -  with a starting price of £11.50.

"Customers tend to start by trying a carafe, and then graduate to a bottle, and we have seen sales of both increasing."  

* What is your experience of sake and level of knowledge, understanding and trade commitment to this growing category.